Reviews of Teen Books

Into the Wild
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I was required to read Into the Wild for English class and normally I’d be
procrastinating to get into those books but I enjoyed this one a lot. In
1990, based on real life events, a wealthy boy named Christopher McCandless,
fresh out of college from the East Coast, abruptly decided to donate all of
his money to charity, sever contact with his parents, and set out for the
great Alaskan wilderness. He journeyed all over the West Coast traveling
around California, New Mexico, and Arizona and even held a job at a farm in
South Dakota, eventually renaming himself Alexander Supertramp. Alexander
picked up new skills and information such as how to skin a moose, different
camps he might stay at, what weapons he needed, etc. from all of the
individuals he met. For years, he remained in the continental United States but his
goal was always to live off the earth in Alaska - he thought there was more
to life than the money and fame his parents treasured. What I enjoyed most
about this book was that there were actual accounts of Alexander’s journey
either from his personal journal or the friends he encountered that allowed
the readers to sympathize with Alexander and understand his goal despite his
unfortunate fate. The problem with the novel was that I think Alexander was
portrayed to be more conscientious and experienced than he truly was due to
the fact the author, Jon Krakauer, outright states he idolizes him in the
foreword. This concept can also be emphasized by the epigraphs at the
beginning of each chapter that provide quotes from famous adventure novels
including The Call of the Wild and White Fang as if trying to ensure that
Alexander was the hero Krakauer thought he was. However, I did find
Krakauer’s bias easier to support the claim that Alexander was naive. Why
else would the author be trying so hard to prove he was not? Slow-paced at
some parts, but I do think this is an interesting telling of what so many
individuals are afraid to do.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Spy School
Gibbs, Stuart
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs, is a really good, light, and easy read.
The book's main attraction is its plot twists. The unknown double agent,
hidden 'spy' school, and secret organization all combine to make a great
action-packed, half-romance novel. The ending also gets the reader hyped up
for the next book in the series. Stuart Gibbs uses great foreshadowing
throughout the book, and hints at every little detail in the plot. Although
the plot is sort-of cliche and some characters are kind-of bland, the book
sums up to be a highly entertaining read. I would recommend this book to
anyone willing to put in the little time it takes to read it.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Awards:
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Stuart Little, by E. B. White, is quite the fascinating tale of an
adventurous mouse on a quest to find his beloved, lost friend. The book is
endlessly entertaining, and Stuart the mouse hooks the reader with his
various shenanigans. Rather than developing the side characters, E. B. White
strives and succeeds at focusing on peculiar Stuart and amusing the reader.
The side plots also fit very nicely into the main story. Overall, I would
recommend this book to anyone, as it is a quick, easy, and wondrous read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a 'meh' romance novel.
While I may not be a big fan of the genre (which is why I personally find it
excruciatingly boring), the book exceeds in describing how relationships were
the main influence of wealth and power in Britain around the 1800s. Jane
Austen also gives each character an 'okay' backstory. Other than that, the
book struggles to keep the reader interested. The characters are bland,
their relationships have a very poor development, and some of the
well-developed side characters just leave without any sort of sentimental
goodbye. The book just seems to be a monotonous lecture with all of the
uneventful dialogue, and overall, the book just doesn’t seem to capture the
reader. I would maybe recommend this to some hardcore fans of romance, but
other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There’s a reason
they had to call the movie, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
Three Times Lucky
Tumage, Sheila
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Three times lucky is an amazing book filled with lots of epic adventure and mystery. Mo will become forever attached to you, as her and her best friend Dale will crack the case of Mr. Jesse's murder as the Desperado Detectives. Mo will forever search for her lost, Upstream mother, obsess over Lavender, and find that her real family was right in front of her the whole time! This is a great story for mystery book lovers and drama as well!

Reviewer's Name: Danielle
Genres:
Tess of the Road
Hartman, Rachel
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Tess Dombegh is ruined. When she was quite young, she met an ambitious young scholar who took advantage of her and left her in the family way. Since then, her main goal has been to find her twin sister, Jeanne, a husband that will save their family from their dire financial straits. Tess successfully finds Jeanne a husband, and after getting extremely drunk at their wedding and embarrassing herself and their entire family, she decides to run away.

Notice that I got through this description with nary a mention of dragons? There are dragons in this world. But only barely, hence the reason I didn't need to mention them in my synopsis. This is actually, I think, the weakest point of the book, but I'll come back to that later.

I am more conflicted about this book than I've been about any other book in recent memory. Tess, our main character, is insanely unlikable and unsympathetic, especially at the beginning. However, she's intentionally unlikable and its entirely because of the circumstances of her world are similar to that of Edwardian England in terms of how the ladies are treated. As Tess travels further down the road - often painstakingly slowly, the unnecessary and at times boring digressions in this book are legion - she learns more about who she is, who she wants to be, and how she can make her way in a world that sees her as less than a person because of her gender.

Those parts, the introspective philosophical parts, I liked. Unfortunately, they were few and far between and were including in those aforementioned digressions that had nothing to do with the plot at large. My interest in the book would wax and wane in huge swings. I did finish it, and I even liked the ending, but wow, this was often a slog.

The thing that bothered me the most about the book was almost the complete waste of the worldbuilding. There were dragons and quigutl (sic), which are like the small, less ferocious cousins of dragons, and while a quigutl was a main character, that character could have easily been a jaded staff member, or really anything else. The fantasy world didn't add to the story, and sometimes, it distracted from Tess' character development, which, at the end of the day was the point of the entire novel. I think making this book pure historical fiction (and I loved the worldbuilding and fantasy setting in Seraphina, the companion series) would've made it a more impactful, better book.

Anyway, complaints aside, at times, I found myself really loving this book, mostly on the strength of Hartman's writing and the very important messaging regarding women's rights. Overall, though, the execution left something to be desired, at least for this reader. I won't be coming back for the sequel if there is one (everything was tied up nicely, but there definitely is room for another book), but I would definitely read another book by this author. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Random House Children's and Netgalley for the eARC that I received for review consideration. Tess of the Road is released on 27 February, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Crossed
Condie, Allyson Braithwaite
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the second time I read Crossed and after I finished I took to
Goodreads to see some other reviews. What I saw most of were individuals
saying that Crossed was not as action packed as Matched and that the audience
was waiting for the majority of the book for something to happen; for Cassia
to see Xander, to leave the Society, to start searching for Ky, to know what
happened to the Anomalies, to get to the Rising... I was eager too for all of
those things to happen but I did not find the book boring but rather
suspenseful. If the book were boring then the new characters Cassia and Ky
met might be uninteresting but I found myself fretting over Eli, annoyed with
Indie, heartbroken alongside Hunter, and sympathizing with Vick. I did not
think the different groups traveling through the canyon called the Carving
was agonizing in any way except positively - I just wanted to get to the part
where Cassia and Ky met up already but I was also satisfied with the other
events such as the deaths, learning about the tablets, the outing with
Xander, and more. When some others said Crossed was not action packed I think
they meant there was a lack of the Society’s interaction, no one was being
monitored or reprimanded for an Infraction but honestly I was relieved and
not frustrated with that at all. There were still plenty of plot twists
throughout the novel that made up for the lack of the Society and I was
curious about all of them. In fact, because of all the conflict and
unfairness the Society put the characters through in Matched I did not want
the Society in this book at all and was curious to figure out what was beyond
the borders of the Outer Provinces. One thing I will say is that this is one
of those stereotypical dystopian books with a love triangle but the book
begins to give some closure as we see which boy Cassia is leaning towards
permanently. Cassia’s goal besides locating Ky is to locate the Rising (the
name of the rebellion against the Society) but everything is rushed. Her next
task is given to her immediately, none of the major leaders are met, and any
information about the Rising is hardly given at all. The author spends the
entirety of the book in the Carving and the last three pages are introducing
the rebellion. Because of the anticlimactic ending, I rate this book 4/5
stars. I am planning to reread Reached because the lack of a satisfying
ending only made me want to know what happens next more

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
The Glitch in Sleep
Hulme, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The plot of The Glitch in Sleep is intriguing - I enjoyed the idea
that there are two different dimensions one called The World (where we live)
and the other called The Seems which controls The World via departments such
as nature, weather, and sleep. For example, the sleep department creates
dreams/nightmares, decides the hours of sleep a person receives if any at
all, and more. But the issue is that The Seems is a well-oiled machine and
depends on organization - if any of these departments do not completely do
their job and the issue is not fixed before the next day then something
called the Ripple Effect occurs which essentially unravels the Chain of
Events and foils the Plan. The Plan consists of organizing principles upon
which The World is managed and if The Plan is foiled, chaos ensues. Becker
Drane is a Fixer, someone who repairs malfunctions in The Seems that
negatively effect The World. One of the reasons I rate this book three stars
instead of five is because Becker is 12 years-old but acts adult-like, his
characterization does not feel appropriate for his age. In fact, all the
children act more mature than normal. At nine years old Becker fills out the
equivalent to a job application/aptitude test in which one of the questions
is something along the lines of “How would you change The World if The
World were being remade?” I can not imagine a nine year old answering that
sufficiently enough that a secret society responsible for the well-being of
The World and every person there would be impressed enough with a child that
they immediately hire him and trust him in deadly situations with advanced
technology. I do applaud the diversity in the book with representation from
countries not normally acknowledged in children’s literature. One thing I
also got a little irritated with was the constant tributes and references to
Highland Park, NJ, Becker’s hometown. The authors both grew up there but I
never lived there and I felt that the information about White Castle and the
different schools located there and other children’s names who were
probably were old friends of the authors were sort of unnecessary and did not
further the audiences’ love or Becker’s loyalty to Highland Park. I mean
if something happened to Highland Park than I would have seen the tributes
and references as appropriate but there was no immediate danger so they
seemed irrelevant and they often came up in times that broke with the tone. I
am sure someone from/living in New Jersey might enjoy these but even as
someone who has been to Highland Park several times and has family relations
there, I did not care too much. I also think there is a lot of world building
in motion and there is too much information regarding the tools and the
departments and officials that is overwhelming. I can also see a potential
romantic relationship being set up which might complicate the next book in
the trilogy by taking away from the plot. I will read the next book to see
some character development and relationships unfold and gain more
understanding of The Seems because the book was left on a cliffhanger.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Genres:
Dear Evan Hansen
Levenson, Steven
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Dear Evan Hansen" is a Broadway Musical about the importance of honesty, love, and remembrance. This book (or script) is about two troubled families that come together with the death of Connor Murphy. Evan Hansen, a high schooler with anxiety, tries to help Connor's family get over the loss of their son, but ends up lying in order to do so. Everything goes wrong for Evan, making up a strong friendship that never truly existed. Toward the end, it is demonstrated that everything will be okay in the long run. This book is better appropriate for an older audience as it deals with heavy topics. If you love musicals, Broadway, and inspiring stories, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
I'll Give You The Sun
Nelson, Jandy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"I'll Give You The Sun," is a touching story about relationships, heartbreak, and love. This story is told from the point of views from Noah and his twin sister, Jude Sweetwine. "I'll Give You The Sun," starts with a broken family that appears like it will never be mended and everything will remain shattered for life. However, as the plot progresses, the reader understands that nothing is permanent and mistakes can be fixed. Life can be renewed and more glorious as ever. This book really emphasizes the quote, "No rain, no flowers." My only critique for this book is that it gets inappropriate at some points; this book is more suited for an older audience.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
Genres:
The Name of the Wind
Rothfuss, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When JRR Tolkein wrote Lord of the Rings, it revolutionized the fantasy genre and paved the way for many novels to come. 53 years later, The Name of the Wind was published, and while it may not have the grandiose setting, story, and lore, it is a fantasy journey that should not be missed.
You follow the life of Kvothe as he tells his famous story to a man for prosperity. The story itself is grand and epic, and is satisfying to read, and it contains action, magic, and love. I would recommend the book to anyone who is a fan of fantasy novels.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
Genres:
The Stand
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After a super virus wipes out almost 90% of the entire global population, only a handful of survivors remain. That is where The Stand takes place; an America devoid of almost all human life, as the survivors attempt to rebuild their society, all while battling the sadistic Walkin' Dude who is out to destroy them. The novel is long, epic, and deep. It is, however, over 1,000 pages; however, give it time, and you will truly enjoy this journey. I would recommend this book to fans of epics like Lord of the Rings, Stephen King fans, or anyone looking for a good read.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
Meg

Meg

Alten, Steve
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

While Jaws may have terrified readers with it's suspense, Meg follows in Peter Benchley's footsteps for only a few steps-and then veers off in a completely different direction. This is a novel all about a small group of scientists trying to kill a gigantic megalodon shark after it escapes from it's hovel in the Marianas Trench. It also has a pinch of scientific mumbo-jumbo and horror to draw all sorts of different readers and to keep you hooked. The characters are diverse, likable, and fleshed-out, and the main antagonist, the 60 foot long megalodon shark, is so entertaining to read about. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action, suspense, or sharks!

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Awards:
Liu, Majorie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I chose this book because comics are a type of novel that I find interest in. This is a fantasy book that takes place where monsters and humans are divided after a war, and monsters who are caught by humans on the other side are used to be sold and experimented on. The main character, Maika, goes on the other side in search for hope of her mother. This is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys comics.

Reviewer's Name: Mona H
Uprooted
Novik, Naomi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an interesting read - with magic and mythical creatures - but I found that in the first few chapters I stepped away from the novel several times. The beginning was slow with not much action, more setting up the scenery and the laws of the land than anything else. The novel follows a girl named Agnieszka living in a quaint village called Dvernik by a magic infested forest where every ten years a mysterious and immortal wizard called the Dragon, who lives in a nearby tower, visits to pick one woman as payment for protecting Dvernik from The Wood. Agnieszka is chosen to her surprise, but her interactions with the infamous Dragon are almost boring - they share a typical, overused trope in a love-hate relationship that frustrates the reader. The two are also locked away in the tower where there are minimal outside interactions from any other characters for almost the entire first half with the exception of one of Agnieszka‘s bedridden friends. I found that the last half of the novel was the most interesting because that was when other characters from the faraway capital were introduced and the scenes were more fast-paced. Because the world building aspect in the beginning was making me impatient, the problem was that later when Agnieszka returns to her village, I spent a long time away from there that the characters and their relationships were hard to remember and I personally did not care for them. There were definitely characters I met in the last half that I empathized or was absolutely lucid with and I did enjoy all the plot twists because, of course, they were unexpected and added some excitement to Uprooted. Overall, the beginning takes off one star for me due to the inaction and some common young adult tropes were utilized, but I loved most of the characters and the plotline anyway regardless of the latter.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W
Genres:
Took: A Ghost Story
Hahn, May Downing
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Took: a ghost story is about a family the moves to a not well known tiny town. The town has a person named Old auntie and her hog named Bloody Bones. They have been haunting the town for over 150 years. It is up to the 13 year old, Daniel, to stand up to the witch and make her stop. I liked the book because there was a good mystery factor. Overall, I would recommend this book to kids who like mystery novels.

Reviewer's Name: Kate B.
Awards:
Genres:
Shift
Bradbury, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shift is a story about two boys that go cross country on their bikes and learn something not only about the other person but about themselves. The novel does a good job explaining what it’s like to lose friends and how to cope with it. I really liked this book because I was able to know what was going on and relate to some of the characters. Jennifer Bradbury did an outstanding job with the suspense factor of the story. Overall, I would recommend this story to a teenager who likes mystery stories.

Reviewer's Name: Kate B.
Awards:
Genres:
Walk Two Moons
Creech, Sharon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Walk two moons is a great way to express the life of a teenager. I really liked the book because I can relate to some of the circumstances. When Sal is trying to solve mysteries about her life, and how her mom went missing, she also learns many things about herself. Sharon Creech did a very good job with portraying emotion throughout the whole book. The reader is able to feel empathy for all the character because of the detail in the book. Overall, I would very much recommend this book to over readers.

Reviewer's Name: Kate B.
Genres:
In Other Lands
Brennan, Sarah Rees
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In Other Lands follows young Elliot Schafer as he tumbles through a wall (well, his teacher bribed a weird lady to let him through the wall, but whatever) into another land at age 13. He's given the opportunity to go home or go to magic school, and, like any bright young kid who has ever read, like, any book ever, he decides to go to magic school. There, he befriends golden boy warrior Luke and stoic elf warrior Serene (our fearful nerd Elliot decides to take the council course as he is deathly allergic to exercise and also, killing), and the book follows their exploits throughout the duration of their time in school.

Ok, so, that synopsis does not even begin to do this book justice. I will be forcing this into the hands of any person that walks into the teen center that says that they have even a remote interest in fantasy. Because this was so good. The best thing I've read so far this year for sure (and I've already read like 20 things this year, so that's not nothing). Anyway, on to actual information about the book.

Elliot is kind of a jerk. On purpose. But his jerkiness is mostly hilarious, and a lot of the book is his witty, spot on assessments of himself, the world, and the people around him. Luke and Serene are equally nuanced as characters and are quite lovable despite their flaws. One of my favorite parts of the book was that elf culture has the same messed up gender roles and sexism that we humans do...but the male and female roles are reversed. It makes not just for some of the most hilarious passages that I've ever read, but also serves as probably the most effective argument against said gender roles being a part of any society. It was, quite frankly, brilliant. For example: “Do not have a catfight, boys, even if it is that time of the month,” said Serene, and when she saw them staring at her, she explained: “You know—women shed their dark feelings with their menses every month? But men, robbed of that outlet, have strange moodswings and become hysterical at a certain phase of the moon?”

Insanely great egalitarian commentary aside, this was an excellent coming of age novel. The relationship and friendship between our three main characters is complex, but they all love each other and grow so much together throughout the book. And at the end of the day, this book is not really about other lands, it's about the peoples that occupy them. As an added bonus, it demonstrates that communication and shared experiences amongst peoples could almost always lead to peace. In doing that, it also effectively skewers nationalism.

I really liked the romance in the book, but you figure out Elliot's end game partner (yes, Elliot is bisexual!) at about 50% of the way through the book. They don't actually get together until the end and its one of those situations where you want to knock their heads together and yell COMMUNICATE DANG IT at them until they realize they like each other and just make out or whatever. Speaking of which, there is a lot of sex in this one. It's mostly off camera, but the one scene that makes it in is really sweet.

I obviously loved this book. If I were to try to compare it to something, it's most like Carry On by Rainbow Rowell in that it's kind of a love letter to classic fantasy (it's more Tortall to Carry On's Harry Potter) that then transcends the original source material. It's quirky enough that it won't be for everybody, but I think a lot of readers will love it. I just purchased my own copy. Like, without waiting for a Goodreads deal. It's that good. Or, in PPLD parlance, it was Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome! 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:

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